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BELARUSIAN OFFICER DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN DISAPPEARANCES. Dzmitry Paulichenka, commander of an Interior Troops brigade in Belarus, has refuted allegations of his involvement in the abduction and killing of opposition figures, Belapan reported on 16 August. Paulichenka told the agency that the accusations come from people who have never known him personally. His comment followed a recent statement from the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, which expressed "deep disappointment" over the Russian Orthodox Church's decision to bestow an award on Paulichenka (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2004). Paulichenka was arrested in November 2000 on suspicion of involvement in abductions and murders, but was released following a security shakeup by Lukashenka (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 10 August 2004). JM
UKRAINIAN COMMUNIST LEADER DEMANDS PULLOUT OF TROOPS FROM IRAQ, DISMISSAL OF DEFENSE MINISTER. Communist Party head and presidential candidate Petro Symonenko on 16 August demanded that President Leonid Kuchma withdraw the Ukrainian peacekeeping contingent from Iraq and fire Defense Minister Yevhen Marchuk, Interfax reported. Symonenko's demand came in the wake of reports that one Ukrainian officer was killed and four soldiers were injured in Iraq on 15 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2004). "Not a single Ukrainian soldier should sacrifice his life for the sake of transnational corporations and Ukrainian criminal clans," Symonenko said. He also blamed presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc for the death of the Ukrainian peacekeeper in Iraq on 15 August, apparently referring to the fact that a majority of the Our Ukraine parliamentary caucus voted for sending the Ukrainian continent to Iraq. JM
UKRAINIAN PROSECUTORS LOOK FOR PERPETRATORS OF FIXED LOCAL ELECTION. The Prosecutor-General's Office has opened a criminal case in connection with the falsification of more than 2,500 election ballots and election-commission protocols in an 18 April mayoral election in Mukacheve, Transcarpathian Oblast, Interfax reported on 16 August. Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc claimed in April that the local authorities rigged the vote in favor of a candidate supported by the Social Democratic Party-united, which is led by presidential administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 28 April 2004). Prosecutor-General's Office spokesman Serhiy Rudenko said that a subsequent "expert examination established that the protocols of eight district commissions [in Mukacheve] were signed not by commission members but by other persons," Interfax reported. Rudenko added that the investigators' task is to determine who those "other persons" are. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE CALLS FOR TRANSDNIESTER'S 'REINTEGRATION' WITH UKRAINE. Yuryi Zbitnev, who is running for president in Ukraine, has called for Transdniester's integration into his country, Flux reported on 16 August, citing the Russian newspaper "Novye izvestiya." According to the report, Zbitnev, who heads the New Force party, said Transdniester was separated from Ukraine as a result of the Soviet decision on 2 August 1940 to set up a Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic. Zbitnev said a referendum should be held in the separatist region on whether it should rejoin Ukraine. Zbitnev said Russia is likely to welcome such a merger, because it would ensure the well-being of the Russian community in the province, as well as that of Ukrainians living there. Zbitnev added that that Moldova will rejoin Romania "in the long run." Ukraine, he said, must "display initiative" in the Transdniester conflict and deploy peacekeepers to the region. Observers say Zbitnev has no chance in the 31 October presidential elections. MS